The Andes and Amazon trip was our first trip to Ecuador. We travel frequently in North America, Europe and Asia independently so this was our first trip with a guided tour and we were pleasantly surprised what a wonderful time we had exploring this beautiful and diverse country under the knowledgeable and personal guidance of our Ecuadorian tour expert. Summarizing this trip in a couple of sentences will not do justice to the lifetime memories we will treasure from this trip for years to come which were made possible by a flawless tour itinerary and organization and enriched by our personal tour guide Luis “the adventure boy,” an incredible young man wise beyond his age. He not only graciously and competently filled the language gap for us, but he also shared his grandfather’s stories about the legends and gave us insights into the daily life and customs of living and growing up in Ecuador.
Besides enriching our learning about Ecuador with historical and cultural data, Luis proved to be invaluable for the demands of traveling around: He negotiated with the laundry places for us, recommended restaurants or activities, made sure we found the right buses, departure points, and connections without any problems and he always knew where to catch the taxi transfers for the haciendas. We enjoyed to travel on the public bus instead of a bus full of American tourists and to move around like the locals, with all the smells, sounds, sights and bumps on the not-so-smooth backcountry roads but it would have been quite difficult without Luis’ expertise of the localities. His presence took the stress out of traveling in a foreign country and made the moving around effortless. We were free to enjoy watching our fellow passengers and the flying-by scenery without worrying about bus stops and the next transfer. Besides all the practical help, Luis gave us, he was just plain fun to have around and talk to. He is a jewel.
All our excursions and trips went smoothly and were fun. Everyone of our excursion guides was exceptional (Hairo at Casa del Suizo, Daniel and Tutti at Adventure River Rafting, Iris at Bellavista and the many others who helped and contributed) and loved to share their knowledge of culture, arts, history, plants, and animals. So don't be surprised if they are challenging you to try the lemon ants crawling from a plant or make you float down the river on a raft put together with 8 wooden sticks and a long string! We also got to witness the making of chicha, and saw a local pottery artist and a wood carver at work. Hairo crowned me a queen and got me ready for hunting with face paintings, although it sure did not help my aim with the blow arrow instrument. Maybe we should have tried after we drank that fabulous aqua diente from the local bar that Hairo found for us. We also rafted down exciting rapids and explored a beautiful cave with our river expert Daniel and our safety backup, the Olympian kayaker Tutti/Gregory.
When we followed their local restaurant recommendation we were rewarded with a delicious trucha in banana leaf at a local eatery in Tena. It also sure was fun watching the surprised look of one of the guests when the pet macaw at Casa de Suizo ate his shirt button in a split second and his failed attempts to retrieve it. The bike ride downhill from Banos to see the waterfalls was climaxed with the ride through the pitch dark tunnel, luckily the usual potholes were missing! And the bridges for a maximum of 5 people were quite interesting too after moving over the river in that speed bucket! (This was just a sampling.)
Our accommodations were exceptional, beautiful, and each one unique with their own character and charm. These haziendas and rainforest lodges offered quiet places to reflect, relax, and soak up the experiences and were a welcome resting point between the excursions and transfers. We will treasure memories of a night of traditional music at the Hazienda Pinsaqui, of a beautiful river view from the bathroom and of art pieces in the stairways at Hotel Crespo, of a hot water bottle for the bed after a wonderful dinner at the Posada de Ingapirca, of the national anthem song by school children early in the morning at Isla de Banos, of a still sun rise rocking in the hammock above the river in Casa del Suizo, of the stars through the steam while soaking in the natural hot springs at Termas de Papallacta, of the hummingbirds buzzing around the feeder in the cloudforest at Bellavista, and ...
This fascinating colorful whirlwind of experiences flawlessly presented by Mary, expertly prepared by Marissa, and warmly guided by Luis went way beyond our expectations and we did expect a lot! It all went so well that we never even had to contact Betty in the Ecuador office for help. Please accept our deep heartfelt thanks for an unforgettable Ecuador vacation to all the people who helped prepare this tour itinerary so expertly and who made this fun experience so memorable.